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By Glenn Hall

The following is an edited excerpt from an upcoming article that will be published in Harbinger: A Journal of Social Ecology.

With renewed interest in North America of building dual-power, and forming strategies to achieve these objectives, it is important to look around the world at existing modes of resistance and power-building. This strategy is well known to anyone following efforts of the Zapatistas, the Self-Administration of Northern Syria (Rojava), Bakur, and recently the Mapuche people in the Wallmapu region of South America. These struggles forsake the creation or control of the State as a goal, and create a dual-power scenario within the states they occupy. This approach broadly aligns with Murray Bookchin’s political vision of Communalism,  adapted and to specific programs for specific contexts. Indeed, many of these struggles predate Bookchin or have developed parallel to his work.

It is in this context that I bring up the iTaukei (E-tow-kay) people of Fiji, for whom  many aspects of the dual-power struggle for autonomy against the state are built into the foundations of local self-government.  Dual-power in Fiji shows us the importance of communally-controlled land and taking power from local and municipal government organs, as well as how these can contribute, even in a latent context, the weakening of state power that Communalism calls for. In addition, it shows how these institutions can indeed become the forms of freedom, and that it is up to people and organizations to give it content.

Mothers and daughters gathered at a workshop.  Photo Credit: Kara Elizabeth

First, a brief sketch of the elements of grassroots, confederated direct democracy found among the iTaukei peoples. Villages throughout Fiji only have limited penetration by the cash economy and state control—which leaves the community largely free to direct and decide its own development. They are confederated by region into larger council bodies. Issues are raised in a monthly village meeting called a bose va koro, wherein people take part in the indigenous practice of talanoa (story telling). Talanoa functions as a sort of unity of work and play—people discuss the goings-on in the village, air grievances, laugh, joke, and report from the various councils—all while drinking kava and smoking cigarettes. In this way, the tedium of the meeting is suffused with care, humor, and interest. There exist various councils that the villagers can be a part of, depending on the village itself. These councils include: crime and mediation, water sanitation, health and safety, finance and investment, community development, women and youth groups, church groups, and elder care. This is combined with the iTaukei concept of living vaka vanua, or with the land. Vanua has multiple connotations: it can simply mean the land itself, or can be reference to both the land and the people that inhabit it. In addition, it implies a style of living—in harmony with the land, with one’s community, and putting the well-being of both above profit for oneself (Parke, 2014).

The bose va koro have been codified into the government through the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs, which has a number of other interesting features, including the National Land Trust Board (NLTB), which keeps track of lineages and doles out money made from leasing to the clans. The grassroots meetings connect to a system of district and provincial meetings comprised of hereditary chiefs to decide the affairs of villages on the regional, provincial, and national level. While these councils are currently controlled by chiefly elites, this was not always the case. There is historical and anthropological evidence to show that making these positions hereditary and giving them so much control over these councils is a result of British colonialism (Macnaught, 2016; Parke, 2014). Before that, the leaders of these councils came about through support of their people in various ways (valor in war, service to people, or as a compromise between various factions) and their power over the rest of the village was in many places negligible. Another major aspect of this ministry is the communalization of land rights. Over 80% of the land of Fiji is owned communally by various clans—it is inalienable and the financial proceeds of leases and other development projects are distributed to clan members annually through the NLTB. This has in large part stunted capitalist penetration into the villages of Fiji and prevented their proletarianization (Norton, 2012). The iTaukei people can participate in commerce at will, and have land to farm and live available to them without rent or tax.

In this brief outline, we can see elements of the “forms of freedom” that Boookchin discussed. The power given to village and municipality, even in  latent form, is worth investigating deeper for Communalists interested in building dual-power. In the bose va koro, villages have the potential to shape their development and culture as they see fit, which leads both to instances of domination and control but also mutualism and horizontal decision-making. Despite this, looking to indigenous struggles for autonomy is an important cornerstone of Social Ecology, and the iTaukei people of Fiji have been grappling with autonomy for well over a century.

Women’s meeting focused on sexual health and safety. Photo Credit: Kara Elizabeth

Works Cited

Chodorkoff, Dan. (2014). The Anthropology of Utopia: Essays on Social Ecology and Community          Development. Norway: New Compass Press.

Macnaught, Timothy. (2016). The Fijian Colonial Experience: A Study of the Neotraditional Order Under       British Colonial Rule Prior to World War II. Acton, A.C.T.: ANU Press.

Norton, Robert. (2012). Race and Politics in Fiji (Second edition. ed., Pacific studies series). St Lucia,    Australia: University of Queensland Press.

Parke, Aubrey. (2014). Degei’s Descendants: Spirits, Place and People in Pre-Cession Fiji. Australia: ANU   Press.

The post Forms of Freedom: Dual-Power in Fiji appeared first on Institute for Social Ecology.

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If you weren’t able to make it to our 2019 Vancouver Intensive, you can check out video from the panel “Insurgent Campaigns and Building Movement Power: An Ecology of Tactics.” Featuring City Councillor Jean Swanson and COPE (Coalition of Progressive Electors) activists Shawn Vullliez and Derrick O’Keefe, the panel explores the interrelation between social movement organizing, electoral work, and a broader strategy of building popular power. It asks how we can think strategically about the strengths and weaknesses of these various modes, and how they can be used together to create an ecology of tactics.

Jean Swanson speaks about her experience as a lifelong anti-poverty activist who entered city government, and the institutional challenges she faces in this role. COPE organizer Derrick O’Keefe discusses the formation of the Vancouver Tenants Union in 2017 and the two subsequent electoral campaigns at the municipal level by the Coalition of Progressive Electors Party (COPE) and how this experience relates to municipalist politics. Shawn Vulliez talks about synthesizing prefigurative, electoral/entryist, and revolutionary politics in B.C. and beyond.

Watch the full video here.

The post Video: Insurgent Campaigns and Building Movement Power – An Ecology of Tactics appeared first on Institute for Social Ecology.

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ISE board member Saladdin Ahmed has an insightful new article on “The Significance of the Sudanese Revolution” up at Telos.  Telos has been an important journal of critical theory since 1968, introducing a wide variety of Frankfurt School and French radical thinkers to U.S. audiences as well as publishing occasional articles by ISE co-founder Murray Bookchin. Ahmed’s article argues that the uprising in Sudan is a hopeful development that might suggest a new direction out of the familiar deadlock between nationalist authoritarianism and reactionary Islamism in the MENA region.

“The ongoing Sudanese revolution has emerged at a time when most of us had already given up any realistic hope for what has become known as the Arab Spring. Yet, if anything, the revolutionaries in Sudan have the best chance yet of simultaneously defeating both nationalist dictatorship and religious fundamentalism. This would be no small feat; it would arguably mark the most significant historical turning point in the struggle for democracy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) since World War II.

Since the protests began in Tunisia in late 2010, the Arab Spring has repeatedly failed to deliver on its promise of democratic governance. I argue that this is primarily because the protest movements have simply not been revolutionary enough to break free from the dominating orbit of the retroactive forces of nationalist dictatorships and religious fundamentalism. Under these circumstances, the non-violent, mostly liberal movements were quickly neutralized, demonstrating the degree to which the death of the Left has left contemporary societies at the mercy of fascist forces.

… Sudan represents a middle ground between the rejected Other and the dominant players in the Arab world. By virtue of being in the margins, there is reason to hope that the revolutionaries in Sudan will, like those in Rojava, succeed in establishing a revolutionary alternative. In rejecting a regime that is both a military dictatorship and ideologically Islamist, the Sudanese revolution is already well on its way to accomplishing what all other uprisings of the Arab Spring have failed to do. The military generals tried to appease the revolutionaries by ousting Al-Bashir, but the revolutionaries are not to be fooled by such theatrical moves. They continue to insist on the complete removal of the old regime and the establishment of a democracy based on civil rights for all.“
Along the way, the wide-ranging text offers provocative insights about the death of the left in the region, the pitfalls of postcolonialism, and the role played by seemingly oppositional ideologies like anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism in legitimating local authoritarian regimes by redirecting popular anger elsewhere, a process often aided by critical intellectuals. Read the full article here.

The post Saladdin Ahmed on the Significance of the Sudanese Revolution appeared first on Institute for Social Ecology.

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“To defend nature, we must organize” – Greetings from Rojava to the climate movement!

An action took place in the city of Qamislo in Rojava as part of the global action day of the climate movement, “FridaysForFuture.” Together with the city administration of Qamislo, internationalists from Make Rojava Green Again demonstrated with students of the Rojava University  and cleaned up the city.

With banners, and shouting slogans, more than 50 students of the Rojava University in Qamislo walked through the city and drew attention to the ecological difficulties, from waste in the city to the global climate crisis. With this demonstration, the activists took part in the global climate movement FridaysForFuture, which had called for a worldwide action day on Friday. Beside the students and activists of the city administration,  internationalists of the campaign Make Rojava Green Again also took part. The banners carried by the students said: “To defend nature we have to organize ourselves – system change not climate change”, signed with FridaysForFuture-Rojava.

The slogan brings it to the point: only in a self-organised society, which is able to determine their future outside the logic of capitalist production and its inner need to produce and to consume more, there will be no solution to the ecological crises we are facing today. Only in a society that lives on the values of solidarity, with a holistic understanding about the world, can a future be build.

At the demonstration in Qamislo, Mahir Pir, a history student at Rojava University, emphasized that the way we deal with nature and the cleanliness of cities also reflects the mentality of a society. Cleanliness in daily life, cities, homes and the preservation and defense of nature, are among the essential things in life.

The students underlined the importance of leading this action as the youth, because the strength of society lies with the youth. Especially nowadays, in the global movement for a radical change of the economical and political system, we can see the importance of this. In the front line of every Friday demonstration, the youth are marching, calming a future worth living in.

And as in the defense of the revolution in Rojava and the Democratic Federation of North East Syria, the building of the democratic system, and in an ecological society, the revolutionary youth play a significant role.

With the action in Rojava on the second global day of action of the climate movement, the activists also sent their warmest and revolutionary greetings to the people on the streets of the world, wished them every success in struggle for a democratic modernity, in harmony with nature.

A video of the action can be found here: https://vimeo.com/338224817

The post Climate action in Rojava appeared first on Institute for Social Ecology.

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Enroll today for the spring session of our online seminar Rethinking Social Transformation! Taught by ISE faculty Rob Ogman, this five-session seminar that explores the challenges and possibilities of linking emancipatory vision to practical political engagement in the current historical context. It meets Mondays at 3 pm ET from April 29 to May 27.

The course brings Social Ecology into conversation with a variety of thinkers and traditions, comparing dialectical versus conventional thought via Ernst Bloch and Murray Bookchin, exploring the potentialities for change in specific historical moments with Karl Marx and Karl Polanyi, reading Gramsci and Poulantzas on the relationship of capitalism and the state, and discussing political strategy through the work of Rosa Luxemburg and David Harvey. Full syllabus on request.

Registration costs $80 and is open to everyone, but space is limited. Our classes are typically very international; we encourage global participation and offer scholarships to students from underrepresented areas. To reserve a spot contact us at social-ecology@mail.mayfirst.org and pay the enrollment fee here.

The post Rethinking Social Transformation online seminar: Apr. 29-May 27 appeared first on Institute for Social Ecology.

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Our popular introductory seminar Ecology Democracy Utopia starts again next week, meeting Mondays at 10 am PST/1 pm ET April 8 through May 27. Write us to enroll today!

This eight-week seminar provides a comprehensive overview of Social Ecology, exploring a broad range of interconnected themes including social hierarchy and domination, nature philosophy, capitalism, technology and agriculture, direct democracy and the state, movement history and strategy, and reconstructive vision. Participants will learn the foundations of social ecology and apply these insights to a variety of contemporary political and ecological problems, sharpening their understanding of the world while developing visionary ideas to change it. Combines video lecture, texts, weekly seminar discussion, and online forums. The course will run on Mondays at 1 pm ET from April 8th to May 27th, registration fee is $80.

To enroll, contact us at social-ecology@mail.mayfirst.org

The post Introduction to Social Ecology online seminar starts April 8 – enroll today! appeared first on Institute for Social Ecology.

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Recent events – from the deadly Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, the alt-right’s chant of “Jews will not replace us,” up to recent controversies within the Women’s March and UK Labour Party – have demonstrated a critical need to understand antisemitism as an ongoing threat demanding analysis and action from an emancipatory perspective. We are proud to offer a timely addition to our online seminars: “Understanding Antisemitism: Historical Roots & Contemporary Relevance.” Co-taught by Robert Ogman (PhD Sociology, De Montfort University) and Peter Staudenmaier (Professor of History at Marquette University), this four-session seminar will explore various social theories of antisemitism, examine its social logic and function, and provide an overview of historical instances emanating from both the political right and left.

The course meets Wednesdays at 3 pm ET from May 8th to May 29th. $80. Syllabus on request.

Course Description: Among the specific forms of exclusion and domination that have plagued human societies since the rise of capitalism, antisemitism has played a particularly destructive role. Beginning with the emergence of modern antisemitism in nineteenth century Europe, this seminar will examine the development of antisemitic beliefs across a variety of cultural contexts and explore the social function of anti-Jewish sentiment under hierarchical conditions. We will discuss how and why antisemitic thinking and practice, from covert animosity to outright violence, affect both the established institutions of the social order and oppositional movements working against these institutions.

To register, email us at social-ecology@mail.mayfirst.org

The post Online Seminar – Understanding Antisemitism: Historical Roots & Contemporary Relevance (May 8-29) appeared first on Institute for Social Ecology.

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The Institute for Social Ecology is excited to announce the relaunch of Harbinger: A Journal of Social Ecology.

A harbinger is a messenger, or a sign indicating that a major event or change is coming. In recent years the Institute has been energized by a global resurgence of interest in social ecology, municipalism, democratic confederalism, and communalism emanating from a multiplicity of movements. Our programs continue to grow and connect people across the globe, and our comrades have launched exciting new organizations and political initiatives based on these shared ideas. At a moment when resistance to capitalism, ecocide, representative democracy, and social domination is evident everywhere, we need forums where we can sharpen the analysis, strategy, and political vision necessary to create a radically democratic and ecological society.

Harbinger seeks to fill this role, providing a dedicated space where we can engage in sustained analysis and exploration of a variety of practical and theoretical questions relevant to social ecology.

We are currently seeking submissions encompassing a wide range of topics and formats, such as strategic reflections on current organizing projects, artistic interventions, well-crafted polemics, book/film/tv/performance reviews, or theoretical and philosophical interrogations of capitalism, ecology, race, gender, the state, nationalism, culture, and beyond. A primary aim is to provide a platform for generating uniquely social ecological perspectives on contemporary political and theoretical issues and debates.

This is the role Harbinger has played since its first publication in the 1980s to its last reincarnation in the early 2000s. We are excited to continue this legacy of collective reflection on the struggle to create a free and ecological society, and we hope you will join us. We will initially aim to publish twice a year, with the first issue appearing in fall of 2019. Please send your article pitches, abstracts, art, and ideas to harbinger@social-ecology.org.

The post Relaunching Harbinger: A Journal of Social Ecology appeared first on Institute for Social Ecology.

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The ISE is excited to offer three online courses this spring – our two existing seminars plus a brand new class, Understanding Antisemitism. Our courses bring together ISE faculty, cutting-edge content, and students of all ages from around the world to create a unique learning experience that centers social and ecological transformation. Enroll today!

Ecology Democracy Utopia

This eight-week seminar provides a comprehensive overview of Social Ecology, exploring a broad range of interconnected themes including social hierarchy and domination, nature philosophy, capitalism, technology and agriculture, direct democracy and the state, movement history and strategy, and reconstructive vision. Participants will learn the foundations of social ecology and apply these insights to a variety of contemporary political and ecological problems, sharpening their understanding of the world while developing visionary ideas to change it. Combines video lecture, texts, weekly seminar discussion, and online forums. The course will run on Mondays at 1 pm ET from April 8th to May 27th. Cost: $100.

Rethinking Social Transformation

This five-session seminar explores the challenges and possibilities of linking emancipatory vision to practical political engagement in the current historical context. It brings Social Ecology into conversation with a variety of thinkers and traditions, comparing dialectical versus conventional thought via Ernst Bloch and Murray Bookchin, exploring the potentialities for change in specific historical moments with Karl Marx and Karl Polanyi, reading Gramsci and Poulantzas on the relationship of capitalism and the state, and discussing political strategy through the work of Rosa Luxemburg and David Harvey. The course meets Mondays at 3 pm ET, April 29th to May 27th.

Understanding Antisemitism: Historical Roots & Contemporary Relevance

We are proud to offer a timely addition to our online seminars: “Understanding Antisemitism: Historical Roots & Contemporary Relevance.” Recent events – from the deadly Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, the alt-right’s chant of “Jews will not replace us,” up to recent controversies within the Women’s March and UK Labour Party – have demonstrated a critical need to understand antisemitism as an ongoing threat that requires analysis and action from an emancipatory perspective. Co-taught by Robert Ogman (PhD Sociology, De Montfort University) and Peter Staudenmaier (Professor of History at Marquette University), this four-session seminar will provide a critical introduction to social theories of antisemitism alongside an overview of historical forms up to the present moment. The course meets Wednesdays at 3 pm ET from May 8th to May 29th. $80.

All courses can be also taken in a self-directed FLEX format that features the same materials but without the weekly video seminar for half the full seminar fee.

To enroll or receive more information, contact us at social-ecology@mail.mayfirst.org

We look forward to learning and changing the world together!

The post ISE spring online course schedule, new offerings! appeared first on Institute for Social Ecology.

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Beyond the Local

This August, the Institute for Social Ecology cordially invites you to attend our Annual Gathering for a weekend of engaging political discussion, great food, and a chance to socialize with social ecologists and fellow travelers in beautiful Marshfield, Vermont.

As our ideas continue to spread and our movements grow, this year’s theme is Beyond the Local. We will focus on questions related to the challenges of thinking big: how can we best scale up our political efforts, coordinate our movements and organizations across geographic space and borders, and confederate to build transformative but democratic forms of popular power? If you or your organization would like to propose a panel, talk, or performance on this or a related theme, please get in touch!

We look forward to another fun, engaging, and rejuvenating weekend – mark your calendars and join us!

Registration and Cost: To register email us at: social-ecology@mail.mayfirst.org. We provide great fresh meals over the course of the weekend, so we ask participants to pay a sliding scale fee of 70-200 dollars – we won’t turn anyone away for lack of funds. Please pay in advance here: http://social-ecology.org/wp/donate/. There is plenty of outdoor camping and limited indoor floor space on site, as well as a variety of local accommodations – full list on request. There is also a solar pool and wood-fired hot tub – bring your swimwear!

The post ISE Annual Gathering: Aug. 23-25 appeared first on Institute for Social Ecology.

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